A few couple months after working at the Youth Farm Project this summer, I find that one of the memories that stands out the most is the development session day at LACS when we played a game called Level The Playing Field. This was my second year on the farm, and this year especially it was a new experience for people. How the game works is pretty basic; but the point is more to get people thinking.
To begin, all of us lined up in a straight line while Ann explained that she would read out certain statements with instructions to take a step forward or backward if the statement applied to us. I loved seeing people go from not understanding what was happening to becoming quiet and thoughtful as they saw people who they work with step forward and backward based on categories of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and personal or family history. In the end we were spread out: some people far in the front of everyone, some people in the back, and everyone else scattered between them. The way we were arranged was supposed to signify our “starting place” in society based mostly on factors beyond our control and how those things either set us up for success (or not) according to society. Once we saw the formation of everyone spread out, our job was to find a way to connect everyone together again. I think the group came up with a perfect solution to the problem by forming a circle. I think Emmitt called it a “circle of love”- and although I’m fairly certain he did that partially to get a few laughs, the phrase definitely made sense in a more profound way as well.
The discussion that followed the game brought up the point that even though people may be placed under certain categories or labels by other people in society, they have the individual ability to move past the superficial aspects of their lives or their families’ lives that might otherwise hold them back. For a group of people who just met each other in many cases and were just getting comfortable with the idea of working together, learning small pieces of each other’s realities brought a new aspect of justice to the farm. It became clear that we were working on a project that not only helps the Ithaca community, but also actively broadens our understanding of diversity and of the world.